Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Grow Don't Mow

One thing I love about my town is how it's okay to be unconventional. Certainly there are areas where perfect suburban lawns stretch identically to the curb, bordered by bark and carefully pruned shrubs (I remember driving up to one such location when we were house-hunting, and telling our real-estate agent to just drive away! I couldn't see myself living there). But there are lots of funky, fun parts of town where people feel free to get creative with their gardens. Many of them have lovely perennial beds, arbors spilling over with purple wisteria blossoms, and friendly patios and porches. But others have taken front-yard gardening to new heights with productive vegetable beds, even growing gorgeous cucumbers in the space betweeen sidewalk and curb.

Here's a front yard with rows of corn and blueberry plants. An amazing amount of produce can be grown in the space that a current front lawn takes up. I recently read an article about how the city I live in has enough farmland to completely support the produce needs of our own population. But really, we wouldn't need all that farmland for produce if people make use of the space they already have available to them. Of course, with grocery-store prices still artificially low for trucked-in food, due to still-low gas prices, people will not want to uproot their lawns for food production. But I'm betting by the time we see an explosion in food prices as gasoline doubles or triples in cost, "Grow Don't Mow" will become a new mantra for many.

This is one of my favorite local house-front gardens. They've planted tall bean trellises in such a way that it forms an outdoor room in front of their house. It's really gorgeous - they have a picnic table inside this wonderful bean-enclosed green room. What a clever idea!

And some people even go so far as to giving away their curb-side produce for free. Talk about community-building and sharing. Isn't this awesome! Combine this with the insane number of fruit trees that are abundantly producing this year (and all the fruit rotting on the ground around the city, which is sad to see) and so many more people could be eating healthy, home-grown produce.

Since we live in an area of the city where deer wander boldly into our front lawns, the grow-don't-mow approach doesn't work well for the front of our house, and I'm restricted to growing perennials that the deer don't touch, plus a few assorted herbs that they don't seem to care for (fennel, chives, parseley, mint) and save our food-growing for the fenced-in back yard. So I love to wander and look at what other people down in the deer-free parts of the city are doing.


Wendy said...

yoohoo97What a beautiful thing to see! Most people here still grow only grass and flowers, but occasionally I see a nice vegetable garden.

I agree with you, though, that once produce isn't cheap and readily available, more folks will be adopting the mantra "Grow don't mow!" In my town most people have enough yard to grow something - even if it's just a small patch of herbs.

Brenda said...

Wow, I am so jealous of your city! That bean trellis outdoor room is fabulous, and I love the free garden idea.

Jenny said...

Oh, I love this! Can you believe that State Farm actually DROPPED us for insurance on our old house because we had corn growing in the front yard. The agent had driven by and said that we had 6 foot tall weeds! Um, no, it's CORN, which you'd think an agency called State FARM would know.

Now we are happily with the Farm Bureau, who actually do know corn when they see it.

Elizabeth said...

Dropped you because you had corn growing...unbelievable!

Anyway, we have a garden growing in our front yard too, and it has so much food in it right now! It's been a lot of fun. If you get deer, you could still have a vegetable garden if you fence it. I put a fence up when we lived rurally. Lots of people said a six foot fence wouldn't keep them out but it did, I think because it was a small enough space that they didn't want to jump in because they'd slam into the other side. Before the fence I had the deer eating my tomato plants! Everyone said, deer don't eat tomato plants! So I figured it was something else--until I caught one in the act!

I've thought about having a sign that says help yourself to xy and z produce....but I have to admit I don't want people tramping in my garden. :-( I've had no trouble with that so far, though, much to my surprise!

Greg Peterson said...


First of all congrats on the Triathalons. I started running half marathons a few years ago and those ar hard. I can't imagine what a Tri would take.

What a great post. I love your mantra "Grow don't Mow." I have been running a educational space in Phoenix called the Urban Farm - http:www.urbanfarm.org - for a few years and my mantra has always been "if you are going to grow something it may as well be edible."

Daniel Quinn (author of Ishmael) in his writings states that those that own the food on the planet own the power. I am all for making food a free as possible by planting in all the public and private areas that we can.

I too have a blog at

I'd love to hear back from you.


Lehman's Greg said...

State Farm dropping you is insane. I personally think insurance is an enormous scam.

Another way to stay green and have a yard is to use a reel mower, they are very easy to use and work very well.